Wow! Thank you all for the great novel suggestions.
First, I'm going to tell you some of my favorites, then I'm going to print your comments below.
In no particular order:
The Kite Runner ---maybe my All Time Favorite book?
Lying on the Couch -- by a shrink about a shrink, quick read
I Know This Much Is True-- starts with a man in a library cutting off his own arm, lots of psychiatric issues.
Middlesex -- a novel about gender identity in a young woman who begins masculinizing at puberty...great read
Of Human Bondage-- a classic about obsessive love
The Poisonwood Bible
Outliers-- Both by Malcomn Gladwell. Neither are novels, both are great reads.
The Orchid Thief also not a novel, but I was 25 pages into it before I realized I wasn't reading fiction.
The Namesake.... and then you have to read The Overcoat
Snowflower and The Secret Fan
A Gesture Life-- I loved this
Life of Pi
The White Tiger
Out Stealing Horses
God of Small Things
Three Cups of Tea--somehow I never got into it. And as a kid, I loved Kurt Vonnegut so it was fun to see him on the list in our comments below. And my pic for the moment was Shadow in the Wind.
Have you read I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle? Doyle used to write for the Simpsons tv show and Beth Cooper is a funny book along those lines--intelligent but lighthearted. Perfect for anyone who needs some un-brooding. Grab the paperback edition for extra laughs. The back pages are filled with true high school horror stories. I wish you good reading.
Just start Alexander McCall Smith's hilarious "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, whose protagonist Precious is an amateur detective in Botswana who snoops and fixes her neighbors' business. You will laugh out loud, but her comments on character and motivation are pretty universal in application. Wonderful characters. One in the series describes a woman searching for her supposedly straying husband who, it turns out, has been eaten by a crocodile while being baptized in the river by an evangelical sect. Smith grew up in Africa. It's light reading but good.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons ("I saw something nasty in the wood shed..." is the most famous line)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
(cool eccentric and tragic British family in the 1930s)
For a real brooding downer (but good) there's always Malcolm Lowry's "Under the Volcano" ("the world was always within the binoculars of the police")
Current favorites: Shusako Endo and Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago.
I agree with Anon 2's recommendation of "Snow Flower & the Secret Fan", Catherine's "Time Traveler's Wife" and Dragonfly's "The Book Thief".
I just started "A Thousand Splended Suns" by the author of "The Kite Runner".
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Right now there are 6 volumes. You will be sucked in. =)
I'm also in the middle of Middlesex (mentioned above) and it is a good read, too. :)
Try anything by Neil Gaiman. I loved Neverwhere and American Gods, and couldn't read them fast enough. His other books are great, too. :)
Pure fluff? I'd try any of the Speedy Motors series (the first of which is The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) by Alexander McCall Smith.
Anything by David Sederis (his books must be fiction)
Anything by Sue Hubble - essays about science - but Waiting for Aphroditie is my favorite
Curious Incident (although I firmly believe that A Spot of Bother, his newer one, is far better)
Never Let Me Go - I absolutely loved this
Oryx and Crake - fantastic too, but preferred The Handmaid's Tale
Pharmakon - maybe a little close to home (psych-wise), but fantastic novel about family with elements of thriller and the history of psychopharmacology.
Rough Music / Notes On An Exhibition / Friendly Fire (all by Patrick Gale) - simply my favourite author, and his books are both devastatingly sensitive, and infinitely powerful (at least when it comes to describing the trials of family life).
Free Food For Millionaires by Min Jin Lee - my friends and I have all loved this.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman - romantic, heart-wrenching, escapist. Puts into words the often bizarre feelings that we've all experienced about another person, romantically, at some point. Full of longing and Mediterranean Summer heat.
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - the first of the Jackson Brodie novels. A series of truly intriguing mysteries, all involving Jackson Brodie, the only literary detective I have ever really warmed to, or see as anything more than one-dimensional.
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn - this is one of the books I buy people as a gift. This story is so tragic, so involving and so funny, it's almost impossible that the author managed to combine all this into one book, but it is absolutely fantastic.
Others I recommend:
Wicked by Gregory Maguire. You must have heard of the musical that was based on this book? This book, is much darker and deeper than the show, but just as wonderful.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver(sp?). I read this over a very hot summer in my younger years and I felt the heat of the Congo resonate with the heat of my summer. Haven't gone back to it in ages, but I loved it then.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Greek hermaphrodite. Saga. Does it get better?
Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon a GREAT READ.
The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak. Or We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Both stayed with me after reading them.
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Tam Lin - Pamela Dean
The Wild Swans - Peg Kerr
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
Persepolis (graphic novel) - Marjane Satrapi
Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom - Qanta Ahmed
A Long and Fatal Love Chase - Louisa May Alcott
Welcome to the Monkeyhouse - Kurt Vonnegut
I also agree with the suggestions for Oryx & Crake, Snowflower, and The Curious Incident.
Try anything by Anita Shreve
If you're looking for something girly, anything by Jennifer Weiner is good. I really liked "Little Earthquakes" and right now I'm reading "Certain Girls" and I'm totally caught up in it.
If you want something to take you out of this world I would try reading Tamora Pierce, she writes children's/young adult fantasy and even as an adult I love it. It's my comfort reading. I'd recommend starting with "Alanna the First Adventure" or "First Test". It's all nights and magic and fun. There's also "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley if you like Camelot type books. And of course, Madeline L'Engle is always good.
If you're looking for something with suspense, I recommend reading Arthur Hailey. They're older books so the context is a little out of date, but I can never put them down. Same thing with Michael Crichton, for him, I recommend "The Andromeda Strain".
I loved these:
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini gives a wonderful look into the mind of an immigrant from a strife-tron country. Lots of action, lots of introspection, guilt, atonement.
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon
If you read this you can combine psychiatry with reading a novel. The narrator is autistic and goes about solving a murder mystery. Light. Fun reading.
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See Engrossing tale from a female perspective of life in 19th century China. Wonderfully rich descriptions.
"The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan
Maybe everyone has already read this, but if you haven't this is a "can't put it down" novel intertwining modern Chinese-American life with historic Chinese life, culture.
" The Hidden Life of Dogs" by Elizabeth Marshal Thomas: For dog lovers only: This is not a novel, but reads like one, if you love dogs.
"Marley and Me" by John Grogan
For dog lovers only: This is autobiographical not a novel, but funny and light except for the ending. Heart-warming.
1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
2. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
3. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
I just finished Time and Again by Jack Finney- it mixes history and time-travel, and I loved it.
For something lighter and brighter, I go to Terry Pratchett. A mixture of fantasy-humor-social commentary.
Spirits need lifting? Try The Shack by William Young- haven't read it, but have read great things about it.
Dune I found quite compelling.
I am just about to finish what very well may be the best book I have ever read. It is called "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Zafon... I promise you won't be sorry!
Great blog, by the way!
Have you read Life of Pi by Yann Martel? Boy and Tiger get stuck in a life raft in the middle of an ocean... It's fabulous reading - I think I've read it 9 or 10 times now... and I may just need to read it again soon.